Malabar Spinach Stir Fry (Vali Upakari)

Vali Upakari is a dish from the Indian state of Kerala. It is made with fresh spinach, coconut, and spices such as turmeric and red chili powder. This recipe is a variation on a popular dish called Spinach Pakoras.

Malabar Spinach Stir Fry is a dish that uses spinach, onion, garlic, ginger, and green chilli. It can be served with rice or rotis.


Do you need a supper meal that is both nutritious and tasty, as well as simple and straightforward to prepare? Then try this basella stir fry in the Konkani manner. Serve it as a side dish for supper, or have it as a soup with steaming hot congee! It’s also very nutritious. 

We’ve been told since we were kids that we should eat a lot of leafy greens since they’re so healthy for us. Basella is my favorite leafy green that I can consume in large quantities. Fresh, steamed, or rapidly cooked broccoli is highly healthy and high in antioxidants. It’s high in vitamin A, iron, calcium, and a slew of other minerals that I won’t go into here.

Basella is also known as Malabar spinach in India and is known in Konkani as ‘vali.’ We make a lot of basella dishes, and our lovely Konkani cuisine includes it in a variety of delectable ways so that we may include it into our diet. Here are a few examples:

Masala de Spinach de Malabar (Vali Sukke)

Curry with Malabar Spinach and Coconut (Vali Randayi)

Vali Tambali/Thambali (Malabar Spinach Tambli) 

Coconut Chutney with Malabar Spinach (Vali Sasam)

Spicy, tangy coconut chutney with Malabar spinach and curds gravy (Vali Mosuru Bajji)

vali mosru bajji is a fast and tasty dish.

We also use basella to create spicy fritters (named ambado in Konkani) as a starter/side dish and spicy dosas (called sanna polo in Konkani) as a side dish for lunch and supper.

In Konkani, we make a simple stir fry called vali upakari. In Konkani families, it is eaten as a side dish for lunch and supper.

This easy stir fry is flavorful, tasty, and quick to prepare. This stir fry has a lot of flavor thanks to the flavorful garlic spice and fresh shredded coconut. While you’re seasoning this stir fry with garlic, the delicious fragrance permeates your home and your neighborhood. It’s a heaveeeenlyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

You must try this nutritious, easy stir fry, which can also be served as a soup by adding a bit extra water while cooking. (For additional information, go to the bottom of the recipe.) Here’s how to make it:


  • 1 large bunch of delicate Malabar spinach leaves and stems 
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic
  • season with salt to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • a few of dried red chilies
  • 1/2 cup coconut grated (optional)

2 – 3 people

Time to prepare: 25-30 minutes

Time to cook: 10 minutes

Preparation method:

1. Remove the stems from the Malabar spinach leaves, wash them well, and finely cut them.

 2. If using delicate Malabar spinach stems in the stir fry, wash them well. I only use the tenderest stems that can be chewed and swallowed. They’re delicious.

My husband and I dislike eating mature stems from our upakari. If you like eating them, you may use them as well. 

Chop the stems and leaves into pieces that are 2-3 inches long or finely chopped.

3. Peel the garlic cloves and lightly crush them to release their flavor. (They may also be left unpeeled.)

4. In a pressure cooker, heat the oil, then add the crushed garlic and cook until it begins to brown. Then add the dried red chilies, split up, and cook for a few seconds.

5. Add chopped spinach, salt, shredded coconut, and 1/4 cup water and stir well after garlic is nearly golden brown and red chilies are cooked thoroughly.

If you’re using stems, put them in the pressure cooker first, followed by the leaves, to guarantee optimal cooking. Cooking mature stems will need additional water. Add approximately 1/2-3/4 cup of water if you’re using a lot of spinach stems.

Remember that leaves release a lot of water when cooked, so use caution when adding water if you want a dry upakari/stir fry at the end. 

When adding salt, keep in mind that heating reduces the volume of the leaves by four times, so adjust your salt appropriately.

6. Cook for one whistle under pressure. (Cooking in a vessel takes somewhat longer.)

7. Once the pressure in the cooker has been released, thoroughly combine all of the ingredients, then taste and adjust the salt.

8. If you like a dry stir fry, drain any leftover liquid after cooking. (I don’t agree with this step since overcooking the leaves removes all of the nutrition.)

9. Serve hot as a lunch or supper side dish.

My take on the classic dry stir-fry (vali upakari): To eat it like a soup, as we do at home!

While the spinach is cooking, I add an additional cup of water to the stir fry/upakari. As a result, I have a flavorful broth with spinach in the end. Before supper, I offer it in a dish like a soup, and we enjoy drinking and eating it!  

More Konkani cuisine side dishes may be found here. 

Tags: basella, Malabar spinach, vali, upakari, stir fried, side dish, lunch, supper, nutritious, Konkani recipe, Konkani dish, Konkani cuisine, Udupi cuisine, Mangalore cuisine, Konkani cuisine, Udupi cuisine

Vali Upakari is a traditional Indian dish made with spinach leaves. Malabar Spinach is a type of spinach that has a sweet and mild flavor, making it ideal for this recipe. Reference: malabar spinach seeds uses.

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Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.